Leonetto Cappiello (1875-1942), an Italian artist who came into his own as a harbinger of the joys of French industrial products, brought into his adoptive homeland a range of figuration and color display which bridged the gap between revolutionary sensibilities and down-to-earth pleasures. A major characteristic of a Cappiello design is the action of figures taking wing, their arabesque features readily culminating (over the years) in motion with edge more recognizably “modern.” Being a child of the Art Nouveau era, he would, with great panache, link products to that premium upon organic sensibility in the air at that moment, lifting off and away from classical rational stuffy doldrums.
The work shown here, with its treasures of the vineyards, is an instance of being right up his alley!
With a champagne glass levitating like a space ship (into a pitch black void—as with the Cognac Monnet and myriad others–bringing to maximum impact the sizzle of the subject), we could leave it at that. But then we’d be missing the special graphic gift of the earth tones of the lady’s dress, keeping in touch the earthy side of a new world (the word Nouveau in the expression, Art Nouveau, not to be sluffed off as a careless exaggeration). The era was very much about rebelling against social and imaginative constraints. And Cappiello was a passionate and very talented practitioner on behalf of a hitherto unimagined freedom.
Here, from the World War I French propaganda magazine, La Baionnette, Cappiello produces an overwrought but significantly directed and well composed vision of turning the tide of history killing hopes of telling verve.
An early Cappiello tribute to a new incandescence!
Embracing the speed and the sensational territories unlocked by new invention!
Art Deco chic enfolded in Art Nouveau earthiness.
Though it’s only 1905, we can see in this design that premium upon the uncanny which spells the modern, in all its witty suppleness.
There is the sprightly visual conceit of France defined by grapes and the delight in wines. And there is a modern couple calmly forging ahead on the basis of such bounty. Cappiello’s work is priceless not only by virtue of graphic skill but by its maintaining, even in the year 1933, that no matter how severe the problems of the present might be, there will always be those who cherish and sustain a countering force still awaiting its making a wide impact. That underlying tension endows the designs and their marketing with the dramatic poignancy so evident in many of the vintage posters and other illustrative work by this remarkable graphic artist.
The void, upon which the wild things of 1902 cavort, maintains a weight of contingency, as does the chromatic scheme.
Other examples of La Baionnette Cappiello centerfolds (1916-1918) :